Austrian wine continues to intrigue me. We all know about their steely Rieslings, piercing Gruner Veltliners and wonderfully luscious noble sweet wines. Slightly less well known are the reds which have been making steady progress and this collaboration between Dorli Muhr and Dirk van der Niepoort has a South African connection with the winemaker, Craig Hawkins of Lammershoek, coming over to make the wine.
Carnuntum, which stretches from Vienna to the eastern border with the Slovak Republic, is known for Zweigelt but Dorli Muhr has chosen to concentrate instead on Blaufrankisch. With the fierce heat of the Pannonian summer moderated by the Danube and the nearby Neusiedlersee, Blaufrankisch is able to fully ripen but still retain the freshness that is so evident in this wine. There is a premium wine made from a single vineyard, Spitzerberg, which has 60 – 80 year old vines, but the Carnuntum is made from younger vines and is considerably cheaper.
The first thing that strikes you about this wine is it’s wonderful freshness. 2009 was a warm year in Austria and up to 60% whole bunch fermentation with stems ensures a superbly crisp crunch to the precise plum and blackcurrant fruit. There’s such a clear definition to this wine that it’s a delight to continue sipping but I’m determined to save some overnight and see how it develops.
That proved to be an excellent decision – which isn’t always the case! – and I was rewarded with a slightly softer edge to the wine with elegant lines, clear minerality and a rich depth to the fruit and light herbal notes, finishing with a sprinkling of spice and pepper. The more I tasted, the more complex this wine became, liquorice started to emerge as did cherries and thyme, concentration appeared to increase and new depths became evident. There’s plenty of structure in the form of rounded, minerally tannin and lively acidity, suggesting there’s still plenty more to give.
If you’ve tried any of Craig’s Lammershoek wines then you’ll spot some similarities, freshness for one. Craig’s Swartland Syrahs exhibit that same clarity, with ripe fruit around a clean, refreshing core seasoned with herbs. Craig likes to push boundaries with his minimalist style and this wine is no exception. Aged and fermented for the first 7 months without sulphur before a minimal dose during racking. After spending a total of 15 months in 3000L foudres the wine is then bottled, without fining or filtration. It’s risky winemaking, but I’m delighted to see winemakers of Craig’s calibre taking those risks – especially when we’re rewarded with something that excites and intrigues in equal measure.
On a recent spur of the moment trip to Cape Town I had the opportunity to meet up with David Sadie in the delightful Swartland town of Riebeek Kasteel. David has been making wine for Lemberg but has also been working on his own venture producing tiny quantities of exceptional wines and is now reducing his commitment at Lemberg to concentrate on the new venture. Lunch gave us the opportunity to sample all of David’s wines with food rather than in a sterile tasting room or cellar, which of course is how most people actually enjoy their wines.
Chenin Blanc 2012
Bottled in January 2013 only 2 barrels of this wine are made with fruit from Paardeberg and Malmesbury. Vines are up to 50 years old and dry farmed bushes.
This had a very fine apple nose with light oak influence and had clearly spent time on the lees. There was a pure mineral streak giving plenty of focus to the precise, clean and fresh palate. Tight still – the wine is very young so not surprising – but there’s good balance to this wine along with piercing acidity. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. 91/100
The 2011 vintage of this wine earned David 5 Platter stars and judging by this tasting I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see that repeated. 50% Chenin Blanc with the rest made up from 20% each of Viognier and Clairette Blanche with Chardonnay contributing the remaining 10%. 4 barrels produced, 11 months in old oak.
Another very fine nose with peach and apple but the palate has a richer texture than the straight Chenin Blanc. Bruised apple and honey with ripe nectarine and a floral touch, lightly herbal on the finish. Excellent poise and balance. This is a classy, restrained and serious wine from David. 93/100
With a tiny production of only 2 barrels David has crafted a wonderful wine from 90% Grenache with 10% of additional Syrah. Using 40% whole bunch fermentation with gentle punchdowns for light extraction.
The nose is a beautifully subtle cocktail of strawberry and raspberry while the palate is remarkable for it’s sheer elegance and pure linear fruit. Raspberry, strawberry, plums, with savoury tannins adding support along with the juicy acidity. Lightly spicy on the finish with the merest hint of vanilla and fynbos. Elegant, supple, refined, this is a wine that demands contemplation and is one of the most accomplished I’ve ever tasted from South Africa. 94/100
David introduced this as a new wine in 2011 and it’s a very well crafted blend of Syrah, Carignan, Grenache and Cinsault reflecting the Swartland’s affinity with Rhone varieties. The Syrah comes from the Riebeek Mountain’s shale soils, Carignan and Grenache noir from Paardeberg Mountain’s granite soils and Cinsault from Sand on top of clay based hills on the Western Hills of the Swartland.
Where David’s Grenache is immediately appealing, this blend has a brooding meaty complexity to it that will need more time to reveal its locked in secrets. Supremely integrated tannins frame the refined blackcurrant and mulberry fruit, fynbos and subtle vanilla. This is a wine to watch. 94/100
All of these wines will be arriving in the UK mid-July and will be available from Vincisive Wines.